A “what if” about South African politics

“Imagine change, even if the change is not what you want to see”: a mentor challenged me to do that for South Africa.

What follows is the result, drawing on articles stretching back to South Africa’s late-Zuma years, the last elections and the Ramaphosa economy, and the onset of the pandemic. Instead of the analytical style of prior writings, what follows is a story, told as if it had already happened. It is long, and I experimented with serializing it, but the serialization didn’t seem to work. So now I’m just putting it all up as one story (if you…


A serialized “what if” about South African politics. Second of six installments, concluding the coming to power of the APM.

Second installment. Part one (a few minutes read), can be found here

As the APM built its momentum earlier this election year, two developments in late February to early March attracted notice. First, the APM announced that its economic policy would be led by Mike Schussler, a white man and a known proponent of stripping away labour protection and privatizing state assets. Given the levels of inequality and poverty in South Africa, it was immediately assumed that the appointment was a huge mistake. Such an agenda had been, it was thought, a millstone on the DA’s neck for decades. But…


A serialized “what if” about one plausible direction of South African politics

“Imagine change, even if the change is not what you want to see”: a mentor challenged me to do that for South Africa.

What follows is the result, drawing on articles stretching back to South Africa’s late-Zuma years, the last elections and the Ramaphosa economy, and the onset of the pandemic. Instead of the analytical style of prior writings, what follows is a story, told as if it had already happened. The full narrative is too long for a publication, and too short for a book, so I’m going to experiment and publish it in pieces. This is part one…


In 2020, we built and released Jupiter. It was an attempt to use the habit-forming, instant-reward techniques of advertising technology to make people save instead of spend. We deployed in March 2020, and were shut down by regulators in September 2020. Along the way we gained almost 1,000 savers just by word of mouth, and performed over 300 experiments on triggering saving behavior, as analyzed here and here.

Unfortunately, the combination of regulatory action, the pandemic, and the difficulties of fundraising for an emerging market savings-focused startup ended Jupiter’s journey. …


AS LEARNED THE HARD WAY

Three fintech lessons learned

Photo by Ibrahim Rifath on Unsplash

Late in 2019, I founded Jupiter Save with my friend Avish Brijmohun. Our mission was to make ordinary people addicted to putting money away instead of spending it.

Our strategy had two legs: a delightful app that made saving money easy and fun, packed with games, nudges, confetti and rewards; and bundling small saves into large ones, to give ordinary savers the interest rates and liquidity terms only available to rich people. …


We take a second look at Jupiter’s early data, segmenting users and trying to predict what moves someone from a low to high propensity saver

Copyright Jupiter Savings. Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Synthesis:

  • App engagement, saving momentum and rewards allow ~90% accuracy in predicting savers’ segment dynamics.
  • Savers resist easy classification, but focusing on their journeys, not their static points, leads to structure and meaning that can be acted on.
  • Unfounded priors about inherent user characteristics or “big data” may be unhelpful, especially when applying data science in early days.

Finding segments that are both robust and useful

In a previous article, we took a look at Jupiter’s data on triggering users to save more. In this one, we look at what we can tell about savers’ overall behaviour, or segmenting and clustering, for Jupiter’s first ~1,000 savers.

Step one…


A first dive into Jupiter’s rich data on saving behaviour

pixabay.com

What makes people save more?

The question is relevant for ordinary people, fintechs, asset managers, banks and policy makers. It’s the core problem Jupiter is trying to solve, and we’re going to periodically share what we’re learning. Some might think that risky but we believe in openness, and our ability to execute, so we’ll take the risk.

We’re still in our very early stages, so our sample isn’t huge, but it is very granular, and contains by now hundreds of experiments. So this will be the first in a couple of posts. A summary of its three key points:

  • Emotion

As in fintech as a whole, for Ant payments and credit are the easy, but limited, wins — it’s whole-balance-sheet engagement that makes the difference

One of the seeds for Jupiter was planted a few years ago when I saw the way friends in China reacted to their Yu’e Bao account in AliPay. They would open it and just grin. “I know it sounds silly,” a friend said, “but I just feel an emotional connection to the interest growing”.

I have no view on Ant Financial’s valuation. But Ant encompasses almost all of fintech, at unrivalled scale in each vertical. So understanding how it generates value may say quite a lot about fintech as a whole. …

Luke Jordan

Practitioner in Residence, MIT Gov/Lab | Founder, Grassroot and Jupiter | code, data, policy, politics, and other

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